Sunday, March 26, 2017

Rise of the Runelords Recap # 9 [RPG]

[1 Lamashan 4707 continued]

In the aftermath of their victorious battle against Erylium in the hidden cathedral underneath Sandpoint, the heroes search the dead quasit and the room, finding little of interest.  Bey magically heals Nedrin’s wounds and, after some minutes, the hobgoblin stops trying to burst his bonds.  Judging that the effects of the magical orange liquid that enraged him have subsided, the other members of the group untie him.  Nedrin rails at Oliver for having attacked him, but Bey speaks up in the ranger’s defence.  For his part, Oliver merely sharpens his sword and fills a canteen with the glowing orange liquid.

After informing the sentries in the Glassworks’ basement that the demon quasit has been slain, the adventurers return and search the rest of the underground complex.  With bows and crossbows they destroy the zombies in the pits without putting themselves at risk.  Down a side tunnel, they find a spiral staircase descending down; alas, it is completely blocked with rubble.  Another room presents a strange sight: several objects floating gently in mid-air!  The walls of this spherical room are plated in sheets of strange red metal that ripple periodically with black electricity that occasionally coalesces into ancient Thassilonian runes of anger, wrath, and revenge.  After much discussion and cautious trial-and-error, the adventurers retrieve a bottle of wine (of recent vintage), an arcane scroll, an ancient, ragged book written in an unknown tongue (with illustrations depicting grisly and cruel rituals), and an iron wand that Bey identifies as a wand of cure light wounds.  Another previously-unexplored room holds a pool lined with skulls, and the last features a spiral staircase around a pillar leading into darkness above.  Exploration shows that passage upwards is blocked by tons of stone that has collapsed from above, but that small fissures allow air to flow to and from the surface.  After speculating about where this complex lies in relation to Sandpoint, the adventurers work together to confirm that the fissures place the staircase somewhere below an alleyway between Tower Street and Junker’s Way.

Prayer Book to Lamashtu
Having completed their exploration of the catacombs, the adventurers walk to the Sandpoint Cathedral.  They arrive in time to witness the end of a memorial service for the victims of the goblin raid on the Glassworks and for Xeveg, who heroically fell during the initial foray into the catacombs.  After the service is completed, Bey speaks with Mayor Deverin about the fissures from the surface to the catacombs.  Mayor Deverin promises to have the alleyway inspected and paved over with stone tiles.  Mayor Deverin reports Brodert Quink’s impatience to explore the catacombs, though Bey warns that the aged sage should not be allowed to enter without an escort.  Father Zantus approaches the group after he finishes consoling some of the families of the murdered Glassworks employees.  When asked, he assures Felix that the severe rash that broke out on the brawler’s skin from fighting the goblin dog should pass in a day or so.  Bey shows Father Zantus the book found within the strange spherical chamber; he identifies it as a prayer and ritual book to Lamashtu, and states that it must be burned immediately.  Bey is reticent to have it destroyed at first, but eventually agrees; due to suspicions raised by Oliver that Father Zantus may be misleading them, the entire group of adventurers go with the priest to his private study to witness the book being reduced completely to ashes in his fireplace.

Later, after Felix learns the hard way that what Bey identified as a wand of cure light wounds was actually a wand of shocking grasp, Nedrin is filled in about the adventurers’ activities in Sandpoint to date.  They provide him with Tsuto’s journal to read, discuss Nualia, and mention that they’ve also taken a commission to explore Chopper’s Isle.  Nedrin says that he’s been placed within the care of the group and that staying with them is the best alternative to being imprisoned or forcibly run out of town.

Sir Jasper Korvaski
The adventurers settle in for an evening in the common room of the White Deer.  Felix buys everyone a round and introduces Nedrin to Garridan.  Bey begins drinking quite heavily.  Cyrdak Drokkus, the local theatre director, comes in alongside a somewhat stiff middle-aged man.  Bey goes over, and the stranger is introduced to her as Sir Jasper Korvaski, day manager of the Sandpoint Mercantile League.  Bey, who is getting drunker by the minute, tells Cyrdak about the fight in the catacombs and he enthusiastically promises to use it as the basis of another theatrical production.  Bey also mentions her friend Bodowen, a well-known actor and singer in Magnimar, but Cyrdak scoffs at both Bedowen’s and Magnimar’s “unearned” reputations.  Over at the bar, Nedrin suddenly punches Felix in the mouth!  The two tussle until Felix lands a solid blow, dropping his new ally to the floor.  It turns out, however, that the fight was a friendly one to add a little excitement to the common room (though Garridan is not best pleased).  As the evening goes on, Oliver brings the suspect bottle of wine from the catacombs over to Cyrdak’s and Jasper’s table and watches them drink it with no ill effects.  He quickly discerns that the two are lovers, and hears how the Sandpoint Mercantile League can arrange journeys by boat or carriage all over Varisia, deliver messages to distant communities, handle land purchases and construction contracts, and arrange for the import or export of valuable trade goods.  Over a few hours’ time, Jasper begins to loosen up a bit and shows a dry sense of humor.  After a heavily-intoxicated Bey singes her hand in the fireplace trying to prove something, she’s put to bed.  Nedrin retires as well, while Felix and Oliver stay up late into the night gambling with Cyrdak and Jasper.

[2 Lamashan 4707]

Bosk Hartigan
In the morning, the adventurers head in the direction of Junker’s Edge to inspect the tides in preparation for an expedition to Chopper’s Isle.  On the way, they see Jodar Provolost and two new members of the Town Watch, youthful recruits from Magnimar named Jeyver and Bothon.  Jodar says that Sheriff Hemlock wasn’t happy with the condescension he received when asking for help in Magnimar, and that he was even more steamed to return to Sandpoint and find out that a “deputy” has been appointed without his being consulted.  After asking some questions about Chopper’s Isle, the adventurers decide they had better visit the Garrison to talk with Sheriff Hemlock.

At the Garrison, the adventurers see Sheriff Hemlock and grey-haired veteran Bosk Hartigan drilling the raw new recruits.  Noticing his new audience, Hemlock shouts an order for Oliver to follow him and stalks off towards his office.  Once there, he angrily demands Oliver’s immediate resignation.  The ranger refuses.  Hemlock asks how Oliver managed to get the position, and the latter shows the former the letter from Aldern Foxglove.  After reading it, Hemlock crumples it up and says that if Oliver won’t resign, things are going to have to be done the hard way.  He orders Oliver out of his office.  On the way back to the others, Oliver passes by Bosk Hartigan; the older guardsman makes it clear he’s not happy at being passed over for promotion after having been a founding member of the Town Watch more than 40 years ago.

Carved Trees on Chopper's Isle
The local heroes reach Junker’s Edge and climb down to the beach below without difficulty.  Having timed their expedition correctly, they wade over the slippery rocks between the beach and the base of Chopper’s Isle.  Once there, they spot an area in the rounded cliff face where stairs had once been affixed before being burned along with the house itself.  Felix adroitly climbs the face of the rock and lowers a knotted rope for the others.  Everyone assembles at the top to see a windswept area of about two square acres.  Heavy moss sags from the branches of old oak trees, nearly every branch of which has been carved in the shape of owls, hawks, eagles, and vultures.  In the distance, little can be seen beside the remnants of a small, burned down cottage overgrown with tangled weeds and vines.  Searching the clifftop, the adventures find tracks belonging to what Oliver says is a three-clawed large winged quadruped.  The tracks lead to a small cache of gnawed bones, both recent and years old.

Felix is the first to enter the burned-out cottage, and pays a price: rotted floorboards crack underneath his feet, sending him tumbling hard to a hidden basement!  Nedrin tries to climb down to lend a hand, but slips and falls as well.  Oliver and Bey secure a rope around the base of a nearby tree and manage to descend safely.  The basement has walls of packed earth and shaky wooden support beams, all carved with bird motifs.  Two narrow passageways lead off in opposite directions, while the center of the room is dominated by a man-shaped wooden statue with the legs and talons of a giant eagle, two sets of eagle wings, a snake in place of its genitals, and a gem-studded avian head.  The sound of whimpering and distress is heard by Nedrin and Bey, though Oliver and Felix hear nothing. 

Statue of Pazuzu
Nedrin angrily pushes over the statue and the group head down one of the side tunnels.  The hobgoblin takes the lead, using his excellent darkvision to good effect.  He turns a corner and sees a small chamber, the walls of which are covered in small alcoves.  In one corner of the room is a pedestal with a dusty tome.  Nedrin uses the blade of his longsword to flip open the cover of the book, and suddenly finds himself being attacked by the Chopper!  Nedrin tries to fight off the nightmarish attacker, but his longsword passes right through him!  Eerily, the others see no attacker; only that Nedrin is bleeding from several deep red wounds carved in his flesh in the shape of birds!  At the rear of the single file line, Oliver feels a gentle touch on the back of his neck, and loses the ability to speak! 

Facing an attacker he cannot harm, Nedrin runs for it.  Oliver looks terrified and gives mute gestures to indicate his inability to speak, leading everyone to decide to escape the basement while they still can.  A furious scramble up the wall keeps the adventurers alive, and they regroup to discuss what to do next.  Nedrin says the group should leave Chopper’s Isle and tell no one what happened below, but Bey insists that the group would get reputations as cowards and failures.  The consensus is that it’s too dangerous to return to the basement, at least for the moment, so the group scour the clifftop for any other clues and, finding none, wait for low tide before climbing safely down to the base of Chopper’s Isle.

The rumours that Chopper’s Isle is a forbidding, haunted place have been proven true.  What remains to be seen is if Sandpoint’s local heroes will find the courage to return . . .
Director's Commentary (26/03/2017)

The group found some very interesting things in the Catacombs of Wrath.  The tricky part was that it took them almost 15 sessions to identify some of it!  I've taken to trying to give a sort of "keyword" adjective now whenever I hand out magical treasure to help me figure out what it is if it's being identified down the line.  So for example, every potion has a colour ("a magenta potion") and every wand has a description ("a forked iron wand") that should match what's in my notes.  Otherwise, if players just write down "potion" on their character sheet, I'll have no idea what it is later on.

Everyone was aghast that Oliver would intentionally test out what could be a poisoned bottle of wine from the Catacombs on two perfectly innocuous NPCs.   Fortunately, it really was just ordinary wine so he didn't have murder on his hands.  Speaking of Oliver, the stuff with him getting named Deputy worked out quite well and was probably the highlight for the character.  Later, when the player ran a different PC, the new one just never really gelled.

The group first got the adventure hook for Chopper's Isle back in Session # 4, and I was happy to see them follow through.  I had to do some quick Googling to figure out how tides work (i.e., the time between low tide and high tide), but I was happy without the characters' terror of the place.

Next Recap

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